Tania Candiani and Regina José Galindo
The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, University of Texas at El Paso
Regina José Galindo, Hasta Ver, 2002; DVD; 2:25 minute loop; courtesy the artist and Prometeo Gallery di Ida Pisani, Milano
Tania Candiani, Protección Familiar: Casco 1, 2004; color photograph; 16 x 20 inches; courtesy the artist
Battleground: Tania Candiani and Regina José Galindo is macabre. Ubiquitous violence, specifically, violence against women in Latin America in both public and private sectors, is thematically paramount in both artists’ work. While the depiction of violence in art can often seem exploitative, the approaches employed by Candiani and Galindo are calculated. Candiani’s method is deflective while Galindo’s is absorptive—two polarized yet common coping mechanisms of victims, and of society at large.
A poignant dialogue inevitably surfaces given the exhibition’s context and location. Within eyeshot of the gallery is Ciudad Juárez, where well over 500 femicides have occurred since 1993. Remaining unsolved, there are rampant accusations that the Mexican government continues to sweep these cases under the rug. And while neither artist is from Juárez, the grisly subjects broached in Battleground are strongly tied to the brutalities committed nearby.
Candiani is from Tijuana, another border town with recent proliferations in predominantly female-staffed, American-owned maquilas (factories). Women, in some cases, are surpassing men as the family breadwinner, which has escalated domestic unrest in the area. Candiani emphasizes this power struggle by transforming household objects such as colanders and brooms into weapons. The objects metaphorically denote a combative yet are socially confined sense of domesticity and femininity.
Lanzadas cantilevers several brooms with sharpened tips are from the wall, which project outward towards the viewer. While menacing, the weapons do not convincingly threaten, nor does the artist obscure their original function, indicating defenselessness and the difficulty in overturning long-established gender roles. Protección Familiar, equal parts social commentary and slapstick, includes three photographs of a woman wearing assorted kitchen colanders as helmets. Candiani also invited students from universities in Juárez and El Paso to create weapons from domestic items. As in much of her work, the photographs of armored students fuse intimidation with jest. Using humor as a defense mechanism, Candiani portrays violent circumstances as something to easily brush off the shoulder, alluding to the disregard too often met in abusive situations in the real world.
Galindo’s videos feature the artist reenacting, absorbing and internalizing abuse. In Peso, another meditation on gender roles, Galindo wears shackles around her limbs for the duration of the piece. Staggering about while performing her daily routine, Galindo succumbs to her oppressive chains. She even enters public areas, where the slight interest paid to her condition, emphasizes the normalcy of apathy. In Confesión, Galindo struggles with a man who repeatedly submerges her head in a barrel of water. The repetitive nature of the piece repulsively underscores the regularity of abuse, both in a domestic sense and as a method of interrogation, alluding to political upheaval in her homeland that has continued with impunity for decades.
While Candiani deflects her assailants, Galindo demonstrates and abides. However, even by coupling these divergent strategies, Battleground’s potential for resistance falls short, considering the desensitized, apathetic response of society at large to images of violence. These opposing tactics, jumbled with moments of anguish and absurdity, ultimately divulge the convoluted reactions to—and repudiations of—the plight of women in Latin America and beyond.
Alison Hearst is an art historian and writer living in Fort Worth.